Is Social Search a threat to SEO?

I think it is, and I tweeted so  yesterday.  And the reason is obvious. What is SEO about? Ultimately, it is about one thing: the ‘website’. It’s about making a website and its pages discoverable, ranked favorably in search results, described appropriately so that searchers hook on the description etc.

But ‘websites’ are not ‘in’. Check the diagrams  from Google trends for websites below.

Website traffic for 5 major IT companies
Website traffic for 5 major IT companies
Website traffic for the 2 major consumer goods companies
Website traffic for the 2 major consumer goods companies

While the overall number of people online is increasing, the visits to the web sites keep falling.

At the same time the volume of searches for these brands shows a completely different picture.

Search volume for the 2 major consumer goods companies
Search volume for the 2 major consumer goods companies
Search volume for 5 major IT companies
Search volume for 5 big IT companies

In the last 12 months CG companies see a volume increase or remain steady (amidst the crisis) while, for IT, a longer perspective reveals a mixed picture that has to do with what these companies are and technologies they offer:

  • oracle and ibm are gradually decreasing,
  • apple is increasing,
  • dell  increases too  although less quickly,
  • and hp seems to hold its ground or slightly decreasing.

But there is an equally important movement undergoing: people shift their reliance from search to peers for news,  recommendations and answers.

I don’t remember how many times and about how many things I  have asked my twitter friends’ advise. And it always comes. And most of the time  it’s good too. Not so  abundant as  search results, but who reads search results past the first page anyway?

Enter social seach. Google injects results in search from our social graphs (opt in). I don’t have to reason the usefulness of this.

What should we expect? What else than  these two inversely related trends accelerating?  Less reliance on search, more reliance on peer recommendations.

There are some interesting implications here: SEO consulting and search advertising have profited from our reliance on search. Search won’t go away anytime soon, especially with the social element in it. But what would be the need for SEO? And what would be the need for adword advertising, if the important factor in search results turns out to be our peers?

Is Google shooting its own foot?  So it seems. But I am sure they have figured it out already and they are thinking of alternatives.

Techmeme vs Google

techmeme

Just read the news: Techmeme will abanbon its three year legacy of aggregating tech news in an automated way and become a hybrid (human eidited -auto aggregated)  news site.

I gave a quick look to how techcrunch and readwriteweb present the news and I bed to differ in my judgment.

IMHO the main reason that Gabe Rivera took this decision is the recently launced  Google Blogsearch.
Regardless how brilliant an engineer Gabe might be, he is all alone, and it is futile to compete against Google in its own turf. Adding the human flavor might make techmeme look more susceptible to bias, but in the end of the day, bias is a factor that can be only reduced. Not eliminated. And, as social bookmarking sites have shown as, human judgment is not trivial.

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Google yourself and see … your past item sharing!! (???)


Quite accidentaly I stumbled upon some search results that look very weird to me: I googled my name/nick  in various forms and started browsing the result pages. As to be expected, I found samples of pages from all the social networks I am registered in, but, from the page 10 of results onwards, I started seeing familiar pages but quite unrelated to me.The familiarity came from the fact that these were pages I had shared recently in Google Reader. Yet, what I saw in the search results was not my shares items, but the original articles or posts, which are, linguistically, quite unrelated  to the terms I googled. They are semantically related though!

Have a look and dare to explain:

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A Nigerian scam (=spam) classic.

I don’t remember how many years back was it when I first saw the original nigerian scam mail. You know, the type of ‘I have so many million dollars and I want to get them out of the country etc’.  If there was a spam hit parade this would be Nr 1 for years.

It is so legendary that it does not even annoy me anymore to receive such spam.

Perhaps Google’s gmail antispam filter feels the same way, otherwise it wouldn’t let pass this one. There is a slight variation here. The originator is from Ghana, not Nigeria, but, what the heck, it is pretty close. I copy it for you below (syntax and spelling  are intact):

from Ben Goodman <ben_goodman20gh@yahoo.com>

reply-to ben_goodman25@hotmail.com

to ben_goodman20gh@yahoo.com

date Thu, Aug 7, 2008 at 3:36 PM

subject Regards

mailed-by yahoo.com

From: Mr. Ben Goodman
Accra, Ghana.
Hello Dear
I got your contact during my search for a reliable,honest and a trust
worth person to entrust this huge transfer project with My name is  Mr. Ben. k .Goodman, Branch manager of a financial institution here in Ghana. I am a Ghanaian married with two kids.
I am writing to solicit your assistance in the transfer of $ 7,597.864.00 Million United States dollars only. This fund is the excess of what my branch in which am the manager made as profit duringthe 2005 financial year.
I have already submitted annual report for that year to my head officehere in Accra Ghana as I have watched with keen interest as they will never know of this excess I
have since, placed this amount of $ 7,597.864.00 Million United States dollars only to an Escrow Coded account without a beneficiary (anonymous) to avoid traceAs an officer of the bank, I cannot be directly connected to this money due to civil service code which formits civil servants from owing or operating foreign currency account coupled
with the fact thatthe fund is huge thus I am impelled to request for your assistance to
receive this money into your bank account on my behalf I intend to part 30% of this fund to you while 70% shall be for me.
I do need to stress that there are practically no risk involved in this. It’s going to be a bank-to-bank transfer. All I need from you is to stand as the original depositor of this fund so that the fund can be legally processed to your name and be transferred to your account. If you accept this offer, I will appreciate your timely response to my private mail: ben_goodman01gh@hotmail.com
With Regards,
Mr Ben Goodman

I like the name particularly: Goodman. An attempt to appeal to the subconscious as a  good man.

More puzzling than ‘how did gmail let this pass’ is ‘how can there be such spam today’. It seems that there is no shortage of fools, nor there is going to be anytime soon…